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Nearly 1,200 Utahns stripped down to their undies on Sunday in downtown Salt Lake City for the Utah Undiewear Run to protest the uptight attitude associated with much of conservative Utah. Runners were encouraged to write laws and organizations on their bodies that they wanted to bring attention to as they ran from the Salt Lake City Library, up State Street, around the Utah Capitol Building and back to the library.
“I see Utah as very, very conservative,” said Francisco Lopez, an education junior at WSU who participated in the Undiewear Run. “It’s interesting because it’s a community that doesn’t want big government, but when it comes to things like gay marriage and when it comes to liquor . . . I feel like they want the government more involved in that sense.”
The conservative nature of Utah is often associated with the large population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the state. The weekend of Oct. 6 also happened to be the same weekend as the 181st Annual LDS General Conference. The date when the run was to take place changed a couple of different times before it settled on Oct. 6. The last, sudden change of date led many to believe it was an intentional change, meant to send a message to the group of General Conference-goers who would be in downtown Salt Lake City on the same day.
“The run is not a protest against the LDS church whatsoever,” said Nate Porter, WSU alumnus and founder of the event.
Due to some trademark issues, the name of the run had to be changed from the Utah Undie Run to the Utah Undiewear Run. The organization with the trademark rights to “Undie Run” sent cease-and-desist letters to all of the sponsors of the event, causing them to retract their sponsorship; none of them wanted to risk it legally. This, along with the matter of getting the proper permits, led to the eventual rescheduling of the event.
Porter said the date was just a coincidence in scheduling. He also said the strict conservative outlook in Utah is hurting tourism and alienating some of its citizens.
Andy Pants, former WSU student and on-air staff at KXRK radio station, also known as X96, said
“The whole point of this is we’re not nearly as uptight as people think — especially Salt Lake,” said WSU alumnus and former X96 DJ Andy Pants. “We have a pretty good bar scene, good music scene, and yeah, we’re doing pretty well here. I don’t think the rest of the nation really realizes that.”
Along with making a political statement, many runners literally donated the clothes off their backs. With a cold winter fast approaching, the importance of getting warm clothes onto those less fortunate is an issue the Utah Undiewear Run seeks to address. Porter said the run collected nearly 7,000 articles of clothing to donate to the local homeless shelters. He said people didn’t just donate the clothes they were wearing, but came with bags of additional clothes to donate.
Although the annual homeless Point in Time Count conducted annually in Utah shows the homeless population has decreased by about 9 percent since 2012, Utah still has approximately 15,093 individuals deemed homeless.
“I think it’s great,” said Ron Voshell, clothed bystander and Salt Lake City resident. “I think it just brings everybody out, kind of shows a little diversity in a way.”
Rebecca Palmer, former WSU student and Undie Runner, shared her way of addressing the nerves that may be onset by running through a city in skivvies: “I have a Ninja Turtle mask, actually.”
Palmer agreed with the purpose of the run. “Utah needs to loosen up. I think that there’s a lot of good here . . . but there’s a lot of fear and a lot of self-censorship and uncomfortableness with people. It’s better to just love each other, love your body.”
Among the crowd of nearly nude runners, several clothed Utahns with clipboards were registering runners to vote. A collective voice among the runners seemed to echo a desire for recognition, diversity and equality.